Missed calls, the Indian way

Updated: Oct 28, 2014, 11:12 AM IST

Recently, I was having a conversation with some of my friends about ‘missed calls’, a term that may be alien to many people across the world, but not to Indians for sure. What struck me was the amazement that some of them displayed about many of us considering this as a means of communication. This got me into thinking whether we had actually developed a new means of communication.

We all give missed calls for a variety of reasons and they have become such an integral part of our lives that some of us may not even notice them. There are some interesting and unique uses that we have developed in a short span of time. When we want to know if somebody has left from his/her departure point, we request him/her to give us a missed call; thereby indicating not only that s/he has left, but his/her departure time.The same goes for somebody’s arrival at his/her destination. The missed call could indicate that the person has reached safely at a particular time, or that the person has arrived outside your house to pick you up.

Of course, one should not forget the original use for which the missed calls were devised: to show that somebody called when you could not answer the phone. This usage too remains intact. Gone are the days when one did not get to know who called on one’s landline phones when one was away unless the caller IDs were installed. Now, everybody would know somebody called and would have to find an excuse to not call back. Interestingly, there are some people who have taken this to another level. Some people give a missed call to somebody they are obligated to call but do not want to talk to. By giving a missed call, the person does not even give the callee a chance to answer the phone and yet achieves the objective by claiming, “I called.”

With mobile phones becoming affordable, they have reached even the economically weaker sections of the society and thankfully so. Not only have the domestic or office help staff become accessible, newer usages of missed calls have developed. Usually, they give missed calls to their employers to indicate that they want to talk and the latter call back. This enables them to talk to anybody whenever they want to without worrying about incurring additional expenses. In fact, for those with prepaid packages, whenever they run out of balance, they can look upto missed calls for help. A low balance does not come in their way of talking to somebody who does not mind calling them back. Sometimes people even use this feature to indicate that they are available to talk, secretly more often than not.

Isn’t it amazing how beautifully we have put to use a feature that was alien to many until recently? What makes it wonderful is that it is a feature that does not require any additional funds either for the service provider or for the caller. Moreover, neither the caller nor the callee has to indulge in a small talk before actually coming to the main point. Recollect the days of landline phones when one had to indulge in a small talk with the person who answered the phone even if that was not the person you intended to talk to when you called. Aren’t missed calls a blessing? Missed calls have made communication quick and non-intrusive. They do not disturb the callee and yet communicate the message easily.

So, are missed calls a means of communication? The afore-mentioned usages would have left no doubt even in the minds of naysayers like my friends who expressed their amusement at the thought. There have been some interesting surveys that claim something like Indians were the only people who gave missed calls until a few years ago; then there are some that say 84 percent of Indians think that missed calls are a means of communication (am more amazed by the remaining 16 percent as to why they thought otherwise). The caveat here is of course that these surveys are not authenticated and only indicative. Nevertheless, they do point to some interesting conclusions.

Another interesting point to ponder about is if this was all the creativity that we had vis-à-vis missed calls? Am sure there can be many other uses that missed calls can be put to. When somebody wants to tell another person that s/he is being missed or being thought about, s/he can be given a missed call; two consecutive missed calls could mean you are being sent good wishes, three consecutive missed calls could have yet another connotation; and so on… These are some of the innovative thoughts that I have at the moment that people can probably put to use. On second thoughts, there could be a probability that these usages have already been adopted and I am unaware. Quite possible, given the supersonic rate at which the world around us is changing.

No matter what people think, missed calls are here to stay as can been seen by the popularity of the concept in other countries. In fact, even as I write, some new concept or even a new usage of missed calls could be in the process of being invented and for all one knows, being implemented. Missed calls can never be missed now. I end with a salute to the oft-taken-for-granted, free-of-charge, non-intrusive and highly effective means of communication!

Simple solutions are always the last refuge of the complex indeed!

(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer)